神さまの言うとおり (Kamisama no Iutoori)

Based on the first arc of the manga series Kamisama no Iu Toori by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Akeji Fujimura, the action begins when a teacher’s head explodes in the middle of the class and a talking Daruma doll appears to force the students into a deadly game of Daruma-san ga koronda. As expected from Takashi Miike, 10 minutes into the movie and there’s already a pile of corpses (literally!). Kamisama no Iutoori (As the Gods Will) looks like it’s going to be a gorefest right from the start.

I’m not a fan of watching human beings being ripped apart on screen so I’m actually quite thankful that the film used CG for its the cartoonish toy villains and unrealistic blood. The main reason why I’m watching this is not because of the genre but because of Kamiki Ryunosuke. And of course he did not disappoint. I’ve probably said this many times but I’ll say it again, Kamiki’s just amazing when it comes to playing psycho characters! I saw the images of Amaya Takeru in the manga and except for the messy hairdo, he looks nothing like Kamiki.

Image result for amaya takeru manga

This is exactly what makes Kamiki Ryunosuke such a great actor for his age – his effortless ability to portray a character opposite his appearance. He plays it so darn well, he makes it look like he’s the protagonist and that his psycho character is actually sexy.

The real protagonist, however, is Shun Takahata played by Sota Fukushi. Shun is a typical student who keeps on complaining about how bored he is with his life but just because the character is bored, that doesn’t mean that the actor should limit his expressions and bore the audience, too. He may have survived all those lethal games but his eyes look pretty dead to me.

It would have been better if Shota Sometani played the role of Shun instead. I’ve been dreaming of a movie where Shota’s acting skills would finally go head-to-head with Kamiki’s. Imagine Kiseiju’s Shinichi Izumi vs. Rurouni Kenshin’s Seta Soujiro. That would’ve been epic!

It’s funny how Shota Sometani’s name is one of those who are on top billing even when he didn’t even survive long enough to make it to the next game. Regardless of the short screen time, the talented actor gave an impressive performance and his character’s demise is definitely a memorable one worthy of a thumbs up.

Image result for as the gods will kamiki

Most online comments and even critics’ reviews mentioned the similarity of Kamisama no Iutoori with Battle Royale and The Hunger Games where teenagers are suddenly thrown into an arena of death. I would’ve accepted such comparisons if Kamisama was able to provide a strong backstory and consistent character development. Am I really supposed to root for Takahata, an ordinary guy I know nothing about and is just constantly complaining about the lack of excitement in his life? Or Akimoto, the female lead who obviously just survived for the purpose of having a subtle romance in the plot? Although I totally repulse the thirst for carnage, at least I could see that Amaya takes pride in being one of “God’s children” and has the motivation in building a new world.

It should’ve been a good thing for someone who hasn’t read the source material to judge the movie as it is but I’m actually having quite a hard time doing so since I have no idea about what is going on and why it is happening. More questions arise instead of answers. Who is that old otaku/hikiko mori? Why are the elders just standing around watching the students on a giant screen instead of trying to rescue them? It’s also unnatural that the teenage survivors had time to celebrate being able to get past another stage but didn’t stop for a second to mourn for all the classmates and friends they’ve lost along the way. I know the manga will clarify all these but the purpose of adapting it into a movie is to tell its story and failure to do so would cause this film to fall apart despite having a famous director and a charismatic antagonist.

Through Takashi Miike’s direction, Kamisama no Iutoori gives childish games a deadly twist. However, it’s a bit of a letdown for its inability to convey the psychological effect and emotional grip it’s supposed to give since the characters are nothing but pieces of meat waiting to get crushed and splattered.

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まほろ駅前狂騒曲 (Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoku)

It’s been three years since Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi but these two equally talented actors, Eita and Ryuhei Matsuda, haven’t lost their charms. Sadly, Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoku’s plot gave them very little to work with.

The movie begins with the usual: Tada being a nag and Gyoten being Gyoten. The latter gets hit by a ball and hilariously pass out on the street. It is exactly the kind of subtle humor, along with Gyoten’s deadpan face, that made me laugh out loud in the series.

Things get a tad serious as the arrival of Gyoten’s super kawaii daughter put their friendship to test. The film tries to explore Tada and Gyoten’s scarred past which is both exciting and scary when Tada realizes that after all these years, he doesn’t really know what kind of person Gyoten really is.
As with every character he’s played, Eita shines in the melodramatic aspect when he mourns the loss of his child. Ryuhei Matsuda is just as compelling but the movie ,unfortunately, fails to take this huge opportunity to develop his character. We finally get to see more of Gyoten: how he became a father, how his mom was as a devotee of a dubious cult and how he grew up being treated violently which resulted to his current pessimism and apathy. Yet, the discovery simply stopped there as the movie suddenly goes to a bizarre twist with the inclusion of yakuzas (why hello there Kengo Kora!), pesticide investigation and a senior citizen bus hijack. I know being a benriya pretty much spells trouble but there were too many side stories and without coherence, the film ended up like a bunch of episodes forced together to make one lengthy movie. With too much stuff going on at the same time, I think the film suffered from lack of direction and dense conclusion.

Good thing there was at least a bit of progress in Tada and Kashiwagi’s relationship as the two went exclusively dating. Seeing Eita and Yoko Maki reminded me of how much I miss Saikou no Rikon.  Gyoten has finally learned to get over his past and clear off his anxiety around children.

More importantly, the franchise has such capable actors who are equally stellar as individual characters and even more amazing when together. The bromance remains solid and they’re off to their next adventures in their shabby little truck.

UPDATE: JULY 13, 2015

As part of the aimagennual Eiga Sai, Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoku was shown at Shangri La Cineplex. I decided to rewatch it on the big screen since it was shown on the night of my birthday. I’m glad I watched because it somehow changed my earlier impressions about the film into a more positive one.

I was worried that the audience would criticize the movie as much as I did, but on the contrary, it seems that the viewers loved it. Hearing the audience’s reactions made me laugh at the scenes that I didn’t appreciate the first time. There really is a difference between watching a movie alone and watching with a friend in a jam-packed theater. I was too critical about the technical aspects that I sort of neglected the purpose of the movie and that is to entertain.

This doesn’t change the fact that Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoku has some messy subplot, poor editing, and abrupt ending. The show, however, has always been so character-driven that in the end, you’d just love Tada and Gyoten (like I always do) and you just won’t care about the shortcomings at all.